The past two weeks consisted of less work than usual, and I definitely took advantage of this slow spell to enjoy Beijing’s beautiful spring weather.

ben-islet.jpgBeihai Park and the Jade Islet
The weekend before Easter boasted blue skies and 50-degree weather. A few friends and I headed over to one of Beijing’s best parks, Beihai. It sits on the north side of the Forbidden City and overlooks the chain of lakes that surrounds the National Theatre, among other major landmarks.

ben-jade.jpgIn the middle of this park is a lake with a large islet, the Jade Islet, which shoots up like a steep hill from the water. At the top of this hill is a marshmallow-shaped Buddhist temple with great views of the city. On the islet itself are several smaller pavilions and grottoes that dot the paths leading up to the peak.

ben-blooms.jpgBesides the islet, there are several other pavilions that surround the shore and make for a nice hour-long walk along the water. In fact, many have just been extensively renovated in time for the Olympics; this gives visitors a glimpse into what these structures actually looked like when they were first constructed centuries ago.

The Great Wall at Simatai
The Saturday before Easter, ACC had a day trip to one of the most remote but intact sections of the Great Wall. I have been to other sections that are closer to the city, but they were crowded and not as rigorous. Additionally, I hoped I would get a second chance to have a better look of the wall without a dense blanket of pollution covering everything.

Ben%20hike.jpgAlas, there was still pollution, but not as bad, and the vistas were breathtaking. The hike was also much more intense, but the cool weather made it bearable.

This section of the wall climbed up the spine of a moderate mountain range that looked down over valleys and a major reservoir. Other than that, there is not much to say about the Great Wall other than that it truly is a sight to see and a feat to conquer.

Another object of note is that on the way back down, there was a zip-line that traversed the reservoir from the mountainside down to the entrance of the wall. Needless to say I tried not to think twice, paid my 5 dollars, and strapped myself in for a great ride. It was quick and uneventful, except for the whole flying down a mountain over water.

Easter in Beijing
This was my first major holiday to celebrate away from home, and I made sure to find something that would make it bearable. I think I did just that and then some.

There was an advertisement in Beijing’s equivalent to D Magazine (but I think it is much better; it caters to more demographics than D), for the Westin Beijing’s “F’easter Easter.” It was a brunch that was kind of steep in price, about $50 US, which does not sound bad, but my classmates here have become accustomed to $2 lunches and cab rides.

I found two other buds to go with me, and when we arrived at the Westin, it was like we had entered the best candy store in the world. There were balloons, Easter egg painting, cotton candy machines, sushi bars, an omelet bar, oyster bar, vodka and caviar bar, and oh so, so much more.

We quickly realized our money was going a lot further than we had imagined. The food was incredible and was on par with any omelet in the West, and was a great break from the Chinese food I have come to love here. The event was also sold out, and pretty much everyone there was an expatriate or business traveler with their family.

For that afternoon it felt as though I was back in the US. It was a great break, and on the way home, we crossed over Tian’anmen Square and saw 30 or 40 people flying kites over the Square in the clear blue skies.

It was certainly a unique Easter, to say the least, but an incredibly memorable one that I won’t soon forget.

Next week is our Spring Break, and a few buds and I will be heading down to Guilin in the southernmost reaches of the country. Guilin’s province borders Vietnam to the south. I’m really looking forward to it because of images I have seen from The Painted Veil.